Articles for June 2016

Data Deluge

I have been working on making available and easily viewable election data from the primary on April 26, 2016, and I believe I am finally at a point where it is ready. My goal is to make each competitive race easily digestible, giving the totals but also breaking out the results by municipality, ward (where applicable), electoral district, and by neighborhood for any election applicable to Pittsburgh. You may notice data from a smattering of municipalities in Westmoreland county, plus Peters Township in Washington county, and these are the rationales behind which races I show and for which municipalities:

This website is intended to be focused primarily on the 37th Pennsylvania Senatorial District, and most discussions and comments will usually be confined to the district and the communities within it.  However, the district is, with one exception, composed entirely of municipalities within Allegheny County, and much of what happens elsewhere within Allegheny County, especially Pittsburgh, affects the county as a whole.  I have therefore included data for all communities within all Senatorial Districts that are composed of, in whole or in part, municipalities in Allegheny County. These include the 37th, 38th, 42nd, 43rd, and 45th districts.  Outside of Allegheny County, the 37th district includes only Peters Township, and the 45th district includes eight communities in Westmoreland County: the Cities of Lower Burrell, Arnold, and New Kensington, the Boroughs of Hyde Park, West Leechburg, Vandergrift, and East Vandergrift, and Allegheny Township.

It may be an unusual hobby, but I enjoy accumulating and analyzing data as it can tell you a lot about a given community or area and can also lead to some oddities, such as:

  • Ben Avon Heights had the highest turnout out of all the communities covered, but it also the only one to not vote for the winner in either Presidential primary, voting for Sanders and Kasich.
  • Jeb Bush, Ben Carson, and Marco Rubio each managed to win at least one electoral district each, but that is only because each of those districts had so few Republicans that they each received the sole vote cast within that district:
    • Bush won Pittsburgh’s Ward 13, District 9 (Homewood), and Pittsburgh’s Ward 26, District 5 (Northview Heights)
    • Carson won Pittsburgh’s Ward 5, District 12 (Hill District)
    • Rubio won Pittsburgh’s Ward 12, District 10 (Lincoln-Lemington-Belmar)
  • Additionally, a single Write-In candidate won the following districts in the Republican Presidential primary:
    • Pittsburgh’s Ward 5, District 3 (Hill District)
    • Pittsburgh’s Ward 13, District 6 (Homewood)
  • There were several districts that did not record a single Republican vote in the primary at all, with at least one in Duquesne, McKeesport, Penn Hills, Pittsburgh, and West Mifflin
  • John Rafferty won every single municipality in the Republican primary for Attorney General, except for two low-vote communities where he tied (Braddock and Trafford) and one that he lost.  The one municipality that he lost to his opponent, Joe Peters was, indeed, Peters Township. Peters won Peters!. This makes me wonder how many of the voters in these primaries knew or cared about who they were voting for, as I am guessing that Peters appealed to the residents of Peters because Peters was named Peters. Washington County does not provide turnout data, so I unfortunately cannot see if the turnout for that election was higher than it was for other municipalities.
  • Congressional, Senatorial, and Assembly districts are composed almost primarily of municipalities, and where those municipalities are split, the split follows the borders or electoral districts, with only one exception I can find.  For whatever reason, the 14th Congressional district includes a very small piece of Whitehall’s electoral district 1. This, to me, seems inexplicable since Congressional districts are, by far, the largest of the electoral districts in Pennsylvania, including roughly 700,000 people in each. Given the large size, I cannot see why it was important to include those few blocks of Whitehall in the 14th instead of the 18th Congressional district given that the population is trivial compared to the overall population of each district. See the image below – the blue line is the Congressional district border while the black line is the border between Whitehall and Brentwood.

Whitehall-Brentwood Border



For various reasons I haven’t posted anything for a while.  Within that long gap, a majority of state and territory primaries and caucuses have come and gone and we now have two presumptive Presidential nominees.  The Pennsylvania primary has also winnowed down the number of candidates for various races, leaving the Senate race between Katie McGinty and Pat Toomey and the Attorney General race between Josh Shapiro and John Rafferty Jr.  The Pennsylvania Senate is also back to full strength as Republican Thomas Killion defeated Martin Molloy and will have the honor of running again this coming November.  This leaves a ratio of 31 Republicans to 19 Democrats in the Senate.

Locally, both Guy Reschenthaler and Ed Eichenlaub have defeated the perennial candidate of “Write-In” and will face each other for the 37th district seat this coming November.  There is a slight advantage in registered Democrats in the district, and though the following stats may be insignificant, Reschenthaler received more actual votes that Eichenlaub, 34,153-32,332.  This difference is smaller than the difference in Peters Township alone, meaning that Eichenlaub has to win the rest of the district by a significant margin in order to make up for the loss he, and any Democrat, is bound to see in Peters.  Matt Smith won only 38.95% of the vote there in 2012, and Heather Arnet won 29%, with both losing by over 2,000 votes.  Eichenlaub’s name recognition probably works against him as he was named on 80.59% of the Democratic ballots while Reschenthaler was named on 91.43% of the Republican ballots.  That means Eichenlaub will need to work hard to increase his name recognition and make the voters comfortable with him.

Reschenthaler seems to have gotten busier in the Senate has he is now the prime sponsor on four bills:

SB 1155, which creates special plates for active members of the armed forces

SB 1161, which sets deadlines on the Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED) to mail tax credit award letters to businesses applying for Educational Improvement Tax Credits (EITC) or Opportunity Scholarship Tax Credits (OSTC)

SB 1189, which increases fines related to lobbying disclosure and also adds verbiage regarding the Internet (capitalized!) and electronic receipts

and SB 1231, which requires social service employees to report suspected incidences of animal cruelty

These are in addition to his I-want-Tim-Murphy-to-like-me SR 275 urging the US Congress to pass Murphy’s Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act.

The first is far from groundbreaking and is now under consideration in the House after being passed unanimously by the Senate.

The second is largely of the result of this year’s budget impasse, where the letters were not sent out until December, leaving the businesses who applied without enough time to actually make the contributions required by the credits.  The bill allows the businesses also to apply the credit to either the year they applied or the year they made the contribution.  I would like to think that businesses would be willing to contribute funds towards educational scholarships whether they get a tax credit or not, but I guess charity will only go so far.  I have to wonder if a contribution is truly charitable if it is made only because the contributor gets some sort of financial advantage out of it.

The third is a part of the “lobbying reform package” announced by Scott Wagner and allies on December 10th, with the bill itself being introduced on April 19th.  I also seems to make changes to the law that don’t seem terribly significant, but I could be wrong.

The fourth is as simple as the summary, requiring a social services employee to report suspected animal cruelty to a registered animal cruelty prevention society, such as the ASPCA.

Reschenthaler also endorsed Marco Rubio for President some time ago, but there is no word yet on any endorsement of the remaining Republican candidate for President.